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And then there were two. “The Grove” offered the most intensely emotional episode of season 4. But it also could have been even more intense had The Walking Dead plotted out these characters throughout the season a little better. Regardless of what was not done prior to “The Grove,” it is far and away the best episode since the midseason break.
The episode actually opened up with some of the finest directing the show has seen in a while, as a camera pans through a kitchen with a kettle boiling towards a window in which two blurry images, one a zombie and another a human, seem to be playing. It offered up some intrigue as to where and when the opening was taking place and also was a quiet but intense moment the show has been lacking lately.
“The Grove” revolved around the grouping of Tyreese, Carol, Liz, Mika, and Judith – characters we haven’t seen in quite some time – as they make their trek towards Terminus. After Liz and Carol bond a bit in the middle of the night, Carol informs Tyreese that Liz is confused about what the walkers really are. This isn’t anything new as earlier in the season – what now seems like eons ago – Liz and Mika had named a few walkers outside the prison and were given a stern talking to by Carol about that. Carol’s thoughts are immediately reinforced when Liz begs Tyreese not to kill a zombie that has just trapped itself in a hole in the ground on the railroad tracks, telling him that there are some zombies that need to be killed and some that don’t. The group soon finds an abandoned house and hole up there.
Much of the rest of the episode revolves around Liz and her confounding behavior. She has always maintained that the walkers are still people, just transformed, but her behavior in the episode makes no sense. Liz seemed to comprehend Carol’s lesson back at the prison about walkers and surviving them but her actions in “The Grove” make almost no sense.
First, it is revealed that the opening shot of the episode is actually Liz playing with a zombie, letting it chase her. Carol kills the zombie and Liz completely loses it as she goes on a tirade telling Carol that the walker was her friend and that it was just looking for a friend. While what she was saying did make some sense for her character, her level of anger was completely shocking. Later on, she feeds a mouse to the zombie she told Tyreese not to kill on the train tracks. Mika follows her and tries to convince Liz that zombies are bad – after Carol gave her a talking to earlier in the episode. Liz starts talking a little crazy about how she just wants everyone to see that she’s right and that walkers are still people as she slowly reaches her hand toward the trapped zombie’s hand.
Then, some recently burnt zombies emerge from the woods and frighten Mika and Liz back to the house where everyone uses the onrushing zombies as target practice. But why is Liz frightened by the zombies? How does she distinguish between the zombies that need to be killed and the ones that don’t? Just a moment ago she was willing to “show everyone” that zombies are still people, but, when the burnt ones come out of the woods, she all of a sudden is horrified and quickly kills them all? Anyway, after the burnt zombies have been dispatched of, it seems Liz has come to a realization that zombies aren’t good after all.
Or so the viewer thinks. After Carol and Tyreese do a little awkward bonding, where Carol can’t quite reveal to Tyreese that she was the one who killed his girlfriend at the prison, they return to the house to find Liz covered in blood and Mika sliced from waist to chest. It was a shocking moment that filled the viewer with dread, especially when Liz told Carol that she wanted to show her that Mika would still be herself when she came back and that she was just about to do the same to Judith.
Again, this felt like a ridiculously drastic measure – especially after Liz seemed to understand walkers were not good. It was shocking but it seemed to speed up Liz’s character arc far too quickly. Back at the prison, it seemed like they were naïve but at least understood that walkers were dangerous, despite believing that there was still something human about them. And even with the events of the episode up until this moment, it didn’t seem that Liz was so “confused” about the walkers that she would go to this extreme.
Her character lacked a natural progression. Instead of being introduced gradually to Liz’s beliefs and what she was truly capable of, it all happened within the first ¾ of this episode. Even the reveal that Liz was the one who dissected the rat back at the prison came directly before the scene showing Liz had killed Mika. It was clear that the show wanted to fast forward to the end of her arc instead of letting it build to the point where she killed Mika. The lack of time spent with Liz and Mika also made the moment a little less poignant as there was little to no connection between the audience and Mika.
Carol decides she must put Liz to rest because they aren’t with her anymore and tells her to keep looking at the flowers as she aims to shoot her. The hope that Mika and Tyreese had earlier in the episode that this house could become their new home was quickly dashed by Liz’s action and Carol’s justified reaction. Afterwards, Carol admits to killing Karen and Tyreese spares her life, telling her that he forgives her and that her actions were who she was and he understood that. With Judith, the two set off into the woods.
The parallel between Carol and Liz that the episode drew was interesting. Liz was basically the inverse of Carol, believing the zombies could be saved and not wanting to kill them, as much as Carol, wanting to save the group back at the prison, took the extreme measures of killing Karen and David when they were sick. Carol killing Liz was also a reminder of how surviving in this world slowly made you a monster, even if you never turn.